Montreal federation and agencies step up coronavirus safeguards

Images combined from a 3D medical animation, depicting the shape of coronavirus as well as the cross-sectional view. (Wikimedia Commons/

Federation CJA and its agencies stepped up their COVID-19 safeguards and many synagogues reconsidered their intention to hold Shabbat services.

Until after Passover, the federation has cancelled or postponed all events and gatherings. Its Gelber Conference Centre is closed, as are the Jewish Public Library and YM-YWHA until at least March 29. The Cummings Jewish Centre for seniors has also paused all programming.

Access to the federation’s main Cummings House and West Island branch, as well as Hillel House on Stanley Street, is limited to staff, one-on-one meetings and essential services.

Screening is taking place upon entering any federation property and all facilities are closing daily at 6 p.m.

The federation is concerned with how the elderly, ill and isolated fare during this time and is urging everyone to make regular contact with them by phone or Internet.

On the afternoon of March 13, the Quebec government changed its decision of the day before and ordered all schools, universities and daycares closed for the next two weeks.

Also on March 13, many synagogues reversed an announcement made earlier by the interdenominational Montreal Board of Rabbis that member shuls were going ahead with regular Shabbat services. Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal’s largest synagogue, was among them, and has suspended services until further notice.

The board’s members are indefinitely maintaining their policy of holding no on-site programs and meetings, although the doors are open for essential ritual needs.

The Hebrew Free Loan Association is offering interest-free loans to anyone disadvantaged financially by the outbreak. This may include lost wages, additional childcare costs, small business losses, cancelled study programs abroad, and related medical expenditures.

At the Paperman & Sons funeral home, funeral services are limited to immediate family. It is providing a live-stream link to allow viewing at home. It’s also recommending that shivah attendance be kept to a minimum.

More recently, the federation set up an additional landing page on its website for volunteers to register to help the community’s most vulnerable, with shopping for food or drugs, making home deliveries, and phone calls to check on homebound seniors, for example.
Additionally, the federation has a new hotline people can call if they need help: (514) 732-1411.